a few thoughts

World Vital Records is running more smoothly, and is closer to achieving our near-term financial goals, with sales 136% higher in September than in our best previous month.

As we get through some of the early start up pains, and as our organization and systems mature a little more, I should be able to budget some time each day to blogging. I have missed it terribly. I love the feedback from readers. I love being part of the conversation. I love that to intelligently blog I need to read a lot first to see what is going on and what people are thinking about, and then organize my own thoughts. As Susan Easton Black, author of more than 100 books told me, you need to “read to write.”

If or when I have time to think and blog more fully, here are some of the topics I’d like to address:

  • Fortune says that Josh Kopelman (who I believe is the top seed stage investor in the country today–a few years ago I would have said Steve Jurvetson of DFJ) and partner Howard Morgan are likely to raise a $75-100 million fund for First Round Capital, which has already invested in more than 40 companies in the past two years. Josh is a fantastic blogger. I encourage entrepreneurs to read his blog as well as anything Paul Graham writes.
  • Josh is also on the advisory board for a new $10 million fund that Facebook has set up to provide grants to Facebook apps developers.
  • Josh Coates, a Silicon Valley transplant to Utah, recently sold Berkeley Data Systems which created Mozy.com, the award-winning free online backup solution, to EMC. Last week Josh told me he be teaching a computer science class at BYU (CS 405) starting in January. I bet Josh will inspire the next generation of Drew Majors and Alan Ashtons.
  • I heard Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speak at BYU last week. He gave a great speech on faith, family and public service.
  • Last week we rolled out a new App on Facebook called We’re Related. It is starting to pick up some serious steam. I’ll blog more about it later.
  • Trying to find Facebook developers is not easy. I may encourage the Utah Facebook Developer’s Group to have another get together soon.
  • I am so happy to be working with Kent Thomas of CFO Solutions again. He is the leading financial consultant/advisor to Utah startup companies. He has helped 75 companies raise more than $300 million during the last 10 years. He and his dozen employees keep books, do financial modeling, and help CEOs make the right decisions. He will be acting CFO for World Vital Records, and help us get ready for future growth.
  • I’m impressed at how much traffic GodTube.com has, shortly after launch. The most popular clip is of a little girl reciting Psalms 23.
  • Techcrunch says the MySpace Platform will launch this week at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. MySpace is opening an office in San Francisco and will hire as many as 200 employees.
  • I’m amazed at how legal bills can mount, given our Series A financing and the dozens of contracts that we are working on with genealogy and technology partners. I intend to find a great US firm that outsources a lot of the contract drafting to India or elsewhere, but still reviews, oversees and approves all of the work. My friend told me there was a major story in the American Bar Association Journal this past month on legal outsourcing to India. I want to learn more.
  • I am researching virtual currencies, point systems, and reward systems that might be useful in our family/genealogy social networks. I came across something from china called the QQ–a point system developed by a private mobile company in China that is now being used by millions as an alternative currency. I believe the online genealogy world could use a virtual currency of some kind to help reward the volunteerism that already happens and help people trade value for value.
  • My brother gave me a copy of “Made to Stick” and said it is one of the top 5 books to read this year.

Tributes to Ray Noorda

This is definitely worth passing on:

Rocky Mountain Voices Syndicates Podcasting Tribute to Ray Noorda

Insights and Praise for the “Father of Network Computing”

From Those Who Knew Him Best

Salt Lake City, UTAH – October 12, 2006 – Rocky Mountain Voices, a social media community serving the Rocky Mountain Region, had the unique opportunity to sit down with colleagues and friends of Ray Noorda to discuss his great legacy as the “Father of Network Computing”. This 16 minute audio podcast entitled A Tribute to Ray Noorda contains conversational tributes to this great man from those who knew him best. Insights and anecdotes ranging from the workplace to the personal discuss the personal side of Ray Noorda, with a focus on his tenure at Novell, Inc. Noorda passed away on Monday, October 9, 2006, at age 82, leaving behind a great legacy for the technology community. Noorda was best known for taking network computing company Novell from as struggling start up with 17 employees an organization of more than 12,000 people at its peak.

The podcast is available in the MP3 audio format for download from Rocky Mountain Voices (www.rockymountainvoices.com), Silicon Valley content partner PodTech Network (www.podtech.net), and from Apple® iTunes®.

What: The audio podcast entitled A Tribute to Ray Noorda contains conversational tributes to this great man from those who knew him best. Insights and anecdotes ranging from the workplace to the personal discuss the personal side of Ray Noorda, with a focus on his tenure at Novell, Inc.
Who: Drew Major, a founder of Novell, talks about how Noorda funded Novell out of his own pocket, competed with Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and coined the term “coopetition”

David Bradford, former general counsel of Novell, praises Noorda as arguably the key definer of the technology movement in Utah

Ty Mattingly, right hand man to Ray Noorda at Novell, discusses Ray’s work ethic, including his 6:30 am start time.

Ransom Love, former CEO of Caldera reflects on the start of the Linux movement at Caldera

Ron Heinz, Managing Director of Canopy Ventures, tells of rooming in a budget hotel in Washington, DC with Noorda to save the shareholders’ money

Darl McBride, CEO of SCO, shares lessons he learned from Noorda on being a CEO
When: Thursday, October 12, 2006

MP3 URL:
Rocky Mountain Voices (www.rockymountainvoices.com)

PodTech Network (www.podtech.net)

Apple® iTunes® (www.itunes.com)

ABOUT PODTECH NETWORK

PodTech marketing partners include leading brands such as Intel, IBM, Seagate, and SAP. PodTech marketing partners benefit from our proprietary morecasting suite of services that combine social media planning, podcast production and syndication, and sponsorships to create powerful, profitable conversations with influencers and customers. PodTech was founded in 2005 and our investors include Venrock Associates and US Venture Partners.

ABOUT ROCKY MOUNTAIN VOICES

Rocky Mountain Voices is a social media company that serves the Rocky Mountain Region by creating audio and video podcasts. The Rocky Mountain Voices team reaches out to the community for stories, first hand report of breaking news, and local commentary on important issues. Rocky Mountain Voices launched an exclusive relationship with PodTech’s partnership designed to give technology companies in the Rocky Mountain area access to the extensive PodTech community, driving greater visibility for our companies and innovators. Rocky Mountain Voices was founded by a group of marketing technology professionals from four Utah-based companies. Rocky Mountain Voices is a property of mCast Productions. For more information, please visit www.rockymountainvoices.com/blog/about.

Anonymous is a Coward

I don’t mind criticism when it is private and communicated with a motivation to help. In fact, I’ve been very grateful in my life for harsh private advice that helped me change my course.

I know I have a ton of weaknesses. That’s why I try to learn so much and work so hard. And I’ve got a long ways to go.

But anonymous public criticism, or behind the back complaining, is both cowardly and unproductive. I am not sure if it makes the critic feel good inside, or feel smarter or better than the person they are tearing down. I certainly don’t understand it or like it.

The other day I blogged about talking with your customers. I love talking with customers and am doing a lot to get feedback from dozens of LDS Media customers, where I am currently CEO.

Someone posted this comment (pretending they were Dan Taggart, my friend and business partner):

Try making a profit for once in your life. Look in the mirror and see how scattered you are.

Most anonymous criticism is completely uninformed. Is this critic trying to say I’ve never started or run a profitable company? This is absurd. (The scattered part I plead guilty to. That is what you do in an incubator. You try a ton of things and see what works and then do more of that.)

The worst anonymous public comment ever made about me (maybe there have been a lot worse ones in private!) was this post to f—company back on Dec 26, 2000 just days before it became public that my brother Curt was going to leave the company (he had been serving as Chairman). This must have been posted by an investor or insiders, because the Chairman change was not yet public. Here was the post:

re: Thoughts on your founders? Dec 26 2000 11:03AM EST

The founders of MyFamily.com are Curt Allen, Dan Taggart, and Paul Allen (not to be confused with Microsoft’s Paul Allen). Curt and Paul are brothers.

Curt Allen has the most business sense of the three. As of this writing, he has been asked to step down as Chairman by the MyFamily Board . . . . He used to be Chairman & CEO of Folio. Folio was built by Curt’s father and turned over to Curt to run before being sold to OpenMarket. Further back in his professional career he worked for Hewlett Packard. . . .
His exit as Chairman in December 2000 will essentially end his influence over the day to day operations of MyFamily.com Inc. Look for Curt to resurface not at MyFamily’s potential offshoot, but at another Utah software startup.

Dan Taggart is currently on the board but is no longer affiliated with MyFamily.com in an managerial capacity. He was the VP over Ancestry when he left the company 1 year ago. Prior to MyFamily he was President of Infobases, a religious CD manufacturer with strong ties to the Mormon church. Both at Infobases and Ancestry his success was strongly derived from the Mormon economic base: an economic base that is small, but is strongly supportive of products that focus on the theological standards of Mormonism (Ancestry-Genealogy, InfoBases-Mormon Doctrine).

Dan is trying to erect his own company that will help Internet start-ups with their business cases. . . .

Paul Allen is still with MyFamily.com as the VP over the MyFamily website. He has made a living off the success of Dan Taggart and Curt Allen. He formerly worked at Folio with Curt and at Infobases with Dan. The positions he held at both companies were created especially for Paul. Paul is affectionally called “Corky” by some external investors. This is a reference to the character played by the mentally impaired actor Chris Burke on ABC’s “Life Goes On” television series. This is a fitting reference for those who have met Paul. He is key player on the “MyFamily show”, but is embarrassingly inept at putting cohesive sentences together in front of his audience and is only affiliated with MyFamily because of his family connections (not his skills). He is pulling down a hefty salary for someone of his qualifications and limited capacity. Expect Paul to exit soon since both Curt and Dan are no longer working at MyFamily. He will presumably pop-up at either Dan or Curt’s start-up companies.

I’ve deleted the worst things said about Curt and Dan, but I feel at liberty to include word for word what was said about me.

This was certainly a kick in the face at a time when the company I founded was being taken over by outside investors and the management they had chosen, as well as some new management from Third Age Media, a company that MyFamily acquired in November 2000.

Many facts in the post are completely wrong. My father didn’t start Folio. Curt did. Dan and I started Infobases and Ancestry, so my job wasn’t given to me because of my family connections. When Dan was President of Infobases, I was CEO. (We actually flipped a coin back in 1990 or 1991 to see who would get which title.)

I continue to create my own companies and my own positions at those companies.

But maybe some of the post was accurate.

My high school counsellor told me I was “inarticulate” after my Sterling Scholars interview and I missed out on getting the Spencer W. Kimball scholarship (I was one of 24 finalists in 1983) at BYU for the same reason. My interviews were lousy.

I am sure I was nervous and inarticulate in some board meetings, so somebody really latched onto this and had some fun with it, at my expense and at the expense of Chris Burke, who is a wonderful person with an amazing story.

There were only a very few people who had insider information who could have posted this insulting comment, and I think I know who did it.

Things like this in the harsh business world cause me to repeat to myself the words of a popular song, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.” That is my business theme song.

My advice to everyone is this: don’t believe anonymous public criticism. If a person is a coward, they are also probably a liar, and are tearing someone else down to gain some personal advantage. Never trust anonymous.

P.S. If you want to say some nice things about my improving teaching, speaking, and presentation skills, I would appreciate it, because I have been practicing a lot. :)

(Note: I have not been associated with MyFamily.com since February 2002 as an officer or director. So my opinions are personal.)

Goals for 2006

I’ve been thinking a lot about goal setting recently. As a Christian, I have always liked that Ezra Taft Benson (Secretary of Agriculture under Eisenhower and later, President of the Mormon Church) explained that all of us should follow the example of Jesus Christ in making progress in four areas of life.

The single biblical verse that describes Jesus’ life from age 12 to 30 says: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52)

Ezra Taft Benson explained that every person ought to set goals and make personal progress mentally (wisdom), physically (stature), spiritually (favor with God) and socially (favor with man). It is easy to be happy when you are making measurable progress in these four important categories.

So I’ve been contemplating what I want to achieve in 2006 in these four areas.

Mental

I have a large reading list of great books and want to devote significant time daily to reading. I read in the Love-is-the-Killer-App way, taking notes every time I come across a big idea. I am also planning to finish reading the Book of Mormon in Russian. I graduated from BYU in Russian 15 years ago, and haven’t kept up the language skills like I want to.

I also want to do more writing. My Connect column always challenges me. I need to write more thoughtful articles for my blog. And I want to prepare to do a national column on entrepreneurship. I also want to make progress on writing my first book. Since I will be internet marketing at BYU again this coming fall I intend to be better prepared with more curriculum material for my students.

Physical.

I hope to run another half-marathon on my next birthday; but I also hope to do my longest 1-hour run so far. Last year I did 6.83 miles in an hour. (I know that is slow, but it was my personal best.)

I also want to eat a more healthy diet. I’ve studied the diets of Thomas Edison and Buckminster Fuller (very contradictory by the way), and I’ve also recently skimmed the book “Fast Food Nation” which is a real wake up call. I’ve spoken with several vegetarian friends. I watch the statistics about obesity and the predictions about diabetes and Alzheimers for our aging population. I think a healthy diet and regular exercise are the best ways to combat these epidemics, and yet most people don’t seem to adopt them. I did well last year but want to do even better this year.

Spiritual/Social. My goals in these areas are private. But I will say that I admire Mahatma Gandhi, who said in his Autobiography, “”What I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years is to see God face to face.” I admire those who believe that God is our Father and that all men and women are brothers and sisters. I appreciate those who live their lives trying to keep the two great commandments: love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor like yourself. Those two commandments really cover the Spiritual and Social areas well.

Okay, so now for my blog readers, here are the more important goals, the ones that deal with Provo Labs and our various internet businesses.

Here are the main things I hope that we accomplish in 2006.

1. We will acquire and/or build a dozen revenue-generating web sites that will offset the costs of all of our Provo Labs staff. This is our top priority. If we use our fund to pay for headcount, then having ten employees will use up a good deal of our fund. But by building or buying high traffic sites and generating revenue (affiliate or AdSense) from them, we figure that we should be able to support at least a dozen employees without dipping at all into our fund. If we can pull this off, then our success is virtually guaranteed, because our core team will be able to build startup companies with subsidized labor costs, giving each company a chance to get to positive revenue on very little capital.

2. Provo Labs companies will become the #2 player in the genealogy/family space, the #2 player in the history space, and the #2 player in the audio books space. MyFamily.com, The History Channel, and Audible.com are great companies delivering excellent content to millions of customers. But it is hard to think of any brand in the number two position, because all the other players are extremely far behind. We hope to become players in these very interesting categories by delivering unique services to new platforms and integrating text, audio, and video in unique ways. My love of knowledge motivates me to stay involved in genealogy, history, and all kinds of content.

3. Blastyx will become one of the hottest online marketing agencies in the country as it starts using insider audio and video-casting and blogging as online marketing tools. Every Provo Labs startup will be launched with the help of Blastyx.

4. FundingUniverse.com will become a household name among entrepreneurs as its speedpitching events for investors and its regional events start to attract hundreds of serious investors and well-prepared entrepreneurs. Every Provo Labs company that needs outside funding will utilize the growing network of angel investors and venture capital sources in the FundingUniverse.com network.

5. We’ll get back into the political arena with a relaunch of iCount.com. Our mobile commerce technology company (to be announced) will roll out its first product and start attracting a lot of attention. Our SEO technology company will reach profitable after signing up several larger enterprise clients. And I hope we launch an online education company that holds online classes in dozens of subjects like MyFamily.com does in genealogy.

So that might be way too much to bite off for the new year, especially since some of these goals are simply ideas at this point. But if we aim for the sun and hit the moon, we’ll be pretty happy and we’ll end the year 2006 in the words of Cervantes with an oar in every boat and a finger in every pie.

Most importantly of all, I hope Provo Labs helps create a culture of innovation, networking and knowledge sharing in Utah. We need to bring the good parts of the Silicon Valley culture here. We need to think big, and do what it takes to bring world changing ideas to fruition. There are hundreds of great companies that can be formed here and that can succeed here. We have the technical talent, the language skills and the internet marketing skills. But we need more ways for people to meet, share ideas, collaborate, and form partnerships that are win/win.

I am optimistic that this will be the best year ever. As an entrepreneur I have to believe this, or I should go get a real job. As Robert Browning said, “The best is yet to be.” I believe this is true. I believe this will be the best year of my life so far. Here’s to hoping …

Alan Hall speech at E Station ceremony

(Note: these are my notes from Alan’s Hall speech at the E Station ribbon cutting. They are his words, as well as I could capture them, not mine.)

I hope that in the future we’ll look back on this date and realize that this initiative has been a success.

If just one great company comes out of all this investment, perhaps the size of MarketStar, then we would count this as a great success. But we think we have a secret sauce and have the ability to create many successful companies.

My wife and I have been blessed by the Lord with financial resources. We feel a need to give back. The IRS says we own these assets, but we believe they belong to the Lord, and we are stewards over them.

We hope to build many companies and create many new jobs here in Utah.

Our goal is not to take the money after a harvest and keep it.

After a liquidity event, the money will go back into the fund. It won’t inure to our benefit. It will be an economic engine that can keep helping the Utah economy.

The governor has a vision for economic development, and we think there is nothing wrong with private individuals contributing where they can. Our expertise is in entrepreneurship, so we want to help where we can.

We are not here to take any credit to ourselves. We intend to deflect it to others.

We have a good team of people. Craig Bott, CEO, Chuck Duncan, Gary Winger, Greg Warnock, Sherm Smith, Chris Anderson, Kent Thomas.

Our five year goal is to see 100 new companies from Provo to Logan that are helped by Grow Utah Ventures. Besides the GUV dollars we have to invest, we are looking for other investors. $15 million to me is a lot of money, so we need partners to help generate this funding.

How will we find 100 companies to invest in?

1. Conditioning: we want to let entrepreneurs know the resources that are available to help them.

We already have 2 companies a day looking for money on our GUV web site.

2. Investing. We will put our money into these companies, but we want to own no more than one third of the company.

I’ve learned that the moment you take control away from the entrepreneur that you lose some of their vigor.

3. Rallying Others. I’ve noticed that I will run out of money personally if I keep investing, so we are looking for 100 other accredited investors in the state that will invest.

We’re also trying to rally other financial institutions, education, and government to the cause.

We have partnered with Lumin Publishing (publisher of Connect Magazine) to sponsor 5 events attracting about 1,500 people.

Greg Warnock came up with a Junto program about a year ago. Junto means together in Spanish. Benjamin Franklin had a Junto group that met to discuss political issues.

In our Junto program we meet for 8 weeks, 3 hours a week, we teach them how to be entrepreneurs.

Some come away having learned that they are not entrepreneurs.

But we take 10 each year whom we think can be serial entrepreneurs, and we invest $50,000 in them.

Bill Gates was student age when he came up with his great idea.

We have invested in 15 students to date.

We have already invested $3 million in 15 companies from Provo to Ogden.

As part of our rallying, we’ve formed angel investor groups in several places.

Jim Ellsworth here is the head of Olympus Angels. They have about 20 members.

Our goal is at the end of the first quarter, we’ll have 100 investors to invest $25,000 each per year over ther next five years. That is $12.5 million.

We want to support other incubators in Utah as well. The Simmons family is honoring their parents with an incubator building, at the Davis Applied Technology College. The Hall Foundation is making an investment there as well.

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

Blogging from Stanford

My one day trip to California unexpectedly turned into two.

Yesterday Dave Bradford and I had an incredible half hour meeting with the
reigning VC champion of the world, Tim Draper.

He is amazing. He liked our ideas for FundingUniverse but he freely gave us an
even bigger idea, and our whole team is now on fire.

Dave and I left the meeting amazed at how much value he added in just a few
short minutes.

I first met Tim in 1999 when MyFamily.com was looking for our first venture
capital. He and Steve Jurvetson both liked our idea, but we ended up getting a
term sheet from CMGI instead. (Note: I am no longer involved at MyFamily.com,
except as a small shareholder.)

I have run into Tim and Steve a few times since and I have always appreciated
how personable they are.

To get half an hour with the guy who backed Skype and sold it to eBay for
billions is amazing.

So today I am hanging out at Stanford, my favorite thinking place in the Bay
Area.

I love the memorial church, built by Jane Stanford and dedicated to the glory
of God and the loving memory of her husband Leland Stanford.

I am blogging on my Blackberry from a comfortable spot nearby in perfect 70
degree weather. This is a heavenly place.

I get sentimental whenever I am here, thinking about how God has blessed the
world through the innovations and ideas that have emerged from Stanford
University.

Where would we be without Stanford and Silicon Valley that surrounds it?

One of the leaders of my faith talked in the 1920s about how God uses his
church
to save souls and how he inspires business leaders to provide material
blessings and technology to lift the world from a degraded condition.

Both groups, religionists and scientists, can enlighten and lift people.

Today I noticed that Nicholas Negroponte from MIT Labs says he is just a few
months away from delivering $100 laptops to kids around the world, purchased in
minimum quantities of 1 million units.

I have blogged about this before, but it is now almost real.

The day is nearing that billions of people will be able to access the worlds
online library of information and communicate with one another.

The potential good that can come from this is incalculable. Poverty and
illiteracy could be eradicated. Every human being could develop skills and
capabilities and live a worthwhile life.

But at the same time that unprecedented opportunities are emerging to the lives
of people worldwide, we face huge problems of greed, corruption, war, and
hate.

We also face a new selfishness, a new hedonism in the developed world.

One manifestation of this is the lowest fertility rate in the history of the
world. Europes population is disappearing because the desire to reproduce and
pass on values and opportunities to children seems to be disappearing.

Just a year or two ago I read a quote by Peter Drucker, the greatest management
thinker of the modern era, who said that negative population growth is the
single biggest challenge facing the civilized world.

Last week in my internet marketing class I paid tribute to Peter Drucker, who
passed away last weekend. And I challenged my 50 students to try to figure out
a non-governmental solution for the declining birthrate in Europe and parts of
Asia.

I suggested one concept, a Perpetual Civilization Fund, which I admitted is
probably a crackpot idea, that would provide secondary life insurance policies
for older people many of whom experienced large families and appreciate them,
and that the beneficiaries of all the insurance proceeds would be families who
are having their third child or more.

I know some governments are trying to provide financial incentives for women to
bear children. I do not know if they are working.

If you do not think this is a huge problem, read the book ?The Death of the
West? written a few years back. It relies on UN population forecasts to show
how the European population is disappearing.

The total fertility rate in some parts of Europe is 1.1 to 1.4 (it has to be
2.1
babies per female in order to maintain status quo population.)

In Nigeria it is 6.5. So the population in some poor countries is exploding but
in the developed world it is shrinking (except through immigration.)

I know the modern world has worked for decades on reducing population growth
because of the so-called Overpopulation problem identified in the 60s.

But the serious problem Peter Drucker points out — the declining population
problem — is far more dangerous.

So I wonder if a solution to this problem, will, like Google and Yahoo, spin
out
of Stanford or the world of business and science and step forth to save the
world.

(Maybe when cloning is here everyone will want to try it once or twice!)

Or I wonder if it will come from religion. In this world challenge, I am
betting
on religion, because hearts and minds will need to change.

Or maybe a powerful combination of science and religion.

What do you think?

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

—————————————————————-
This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.

Versatile and bright book-keeper needed

Infobase Ventures is expanding our operation.

We need to hire someone to help us do accounting for all the companies that we
are incubating. This will be a part-time position, probably 20 hours a week.

We need someone who is excellent with Quickbooks and Excel, and who has
experience with online banking.

They have to leverage automation and technology to reduce overhead costs in
accounting.

The person must understand financial models, cash flow forecasting, and have
some experience with cap tables (keeping track of company ownership through
initial rounds of funding and stock option grants to employees.)

Over time, this position could turn into full time work.

The initial pay will be $12-15 per hour, but that is negotiable based on
experience.

I am thinking that someone in the BYU Masters of Accountancy program might be a
good fit, especially someone who wants to go into venture capital.

Please submit your resume or refer your friends to amy_rhoadsAThotmail.com.

We will pay a $100 referral fee to someone who helps us hire the perfect
candidate.

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

—————————————————————-
This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.